Editorial: With guidelines and enforcement, Florida’s barbershops and salons should safely reopen

Tribune Content Agency

With hair salons and barbershops shuttered for a month or more, we’re all looking a bit shaggy these days.

But Orange County, Fla., Mayor Jerry Demings thinks they can reopen safely, putting some people back to work and helping with the slow return to normal. We think he’s correct.

It can be done, and fairly soon, with the right guidance, regulations and enforcement.

In justifying last week’s decision to let restaurants and retailers reopen, Gov. Ron DeSantis has made the point that businesses like grocery and warehouse stores already are jammed with people. Just try keeping your social distance at a busy Home Depot on a weekend.

He’s not wrong. Even though hair and nail salons are a more intimate business than hardware stores, they’re an easier environment to manage, not only for crowd control but also for maintaining cleanliness.

Salon and barbershop owners made that point to DeSantis last weekend during a mini-summit at a west Orange County salon, noting that cosmetologists must get trained for cleanliness to get a license.

They made the case that their businesses, with the right precautions, could reopen with a minimum of risk to customers.

The key is the precautions.

Despite all the derision aimed at Georgia last month for so abruptly reopening its economy, the state drafted very detailed guidelines for the cosmetology community.

The Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers made dozens of points, covering personal protective equipment, workplace disinfection, social distancing and managing waiting areas.

Many of those recommendations were incorporated into an April 23 executive order signed by Gov. Brian Kemp, which included 13 mandates, such as providing services by appointment only, requiring customers to wash their hands when they enter the business and limiting the number of employees to just 50% of the usual number working there.

Florida’s guidance for reopening salons needs to be just as rigorous to minimize the risk of more coronavirus infections and the chance of undoing the progress that DeSantis talks about at nearly every press briefing.

Equally important is having an effective mechanism to enforce those requirements. Guidelines do no good without some means of enforcing them and ensuring the public has a way of reporting violations.

Monday’s limited reopening of restaurants was a reminder of how hard it can be to break old habits. The Orlando Sentinel’s front page Tuesday showed a Winter Park restaurant owner, face mask tucked under his chin, holding a close-quarters conversation with a customer.

What the public doesn’t need are barbers and hairdressers, working in close proximity to our faces, deciding they don’t like wearing a mask.

After a rocky start, DeSantis is being very conservative in reopening Florida’s economy (by conservative we mean cautious). He’s taking it slowly and, so far, carefully.

That’s why the governor made no promises to the Orange County barbershop and salon owners he met with on Saturday. DeSantis did say he wanted to find a way to say yes, but not just yet.

As DeSantis ponders the request, a task force assembled by Demings is meeting to consider how to reopen a variety of businesses, including salons and barbershops. On Tuesday, two salon owners outlined some of their ideas.

Reopening an economy is a tall order, harder even than shutting one down. Local and state leaders are, mostly, proceeding as if they’re aware of the high price our state and communities might pay if they get it wrong.

Opening some businesses — like theme parks — will be far more complex than others — like barbershops.

Barbershops and salons may not have the lobbying clout of powerful industries, such as Florida restaurants, but a hair stylist’s livelihood counts for just as much.

And their services are needed. Just ask the governor, who pointed out recently that he, like a lot of us, could use a trim about now. Develop some guidelines, find a way to enforce them and let’s make an appointment.


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